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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Challenge Of The Past



The very cause of our problems is also the thing that often prevents us from confronting and eventually, overcoming them. This is because confronting our buried emotional past is a scary, painful thing. In fact, as children the act of denying our situation became critical to our very survival. The "amnesia" that protected us as children becomes a huge hindrance to us as adults. As a result we may live life experiencing unexplained symptoms of fear, anger, sadness and depression.

As psychologist Alice Miller puts it, "Children have no choice but suppress their fear and anger, as otherwise they could not sustain their love for their parents, and that love is crucially necessary for their survival. But these emotions, though suppressed, remain stored away in our bodies, and in adulthood they can cause symptoms of varying severity. We may suffer from bouts of depression, attacks of panic fear, or violent reactions towards our children without identifying the true causes of our despair, our fear, or our rage.

We fear those emotions as if they were our worst enemy. The pharmaceutical industry caters for these desires with a whole range of remedies - Viagra against impotence, anti-depressives to fend off the effects of depression, but without understanding the deep-seated causes underlying it."


Why is reexamining our past and getting in touch with the pain such a daunting task?

Miller believes, "Such a perspective would reestablish contact with the most vulnerable and powerless years of our lives, and that is the last thing we want to think about. We have no desire to go through that feeling of desperate impotence all over again. On no account do we want to be reminded of the atmosphere that surrounded us when we were small and were helplessly exposed to the whims and excesses of power-hungry adults... it is precisely by confronting it that we can find the key to understanding our attacks of (apparently) groundless panic, our high blood pressure, our stomach ulcers, our sleepless nights..."

Understanding and cultivating empathy for our own inner child is the path to healing. As long as the needs and feelings of the child are denied, we are condemned to continue living with dysfunction in our lives and relationships. Acknowledging and recognizing our sufferings, rather than denying them, frees us to provide our own personal support and nurturing.

A good therapist that can assist us in this process can be invaluable. Having a willing and compassionate witness to our sufferings is key. Being honest with ourselves and another trusted individual about the past, however difficult, frees us to be true to our own selves. As we progress, it will become easier to feel and recognize our own feelings as well as treat others with the same empathy we now allow ourselves.


Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children

DMCA.com

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are there any resources out there for when adult children of alcholics have their own children?

Anonymous said...

Good question. I guess the best resource for the child is a caring, nurturing parent. ACA, Al Anon, other 12 Step groups, meditation, education, counseling and having a "safe" support group/family can help one on the path to breaking the cycle of dysfunction.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Alice Miller hits the nail on the head. My wife is having issues with her brother who is abusive toward us and denies that my wife was an incest survivor because she wasnt actually a victim of intercourse- but "only" pornography and nude photo shoots with her dad as a child. The sickness of denial is so sweeping in so many. As my wife and I like to say- "There but for the grace of God go we".